For some reason or another, Mike Myers can’t seem to help himself; no matter what the project, he’s much happier donning prosthetics and playing a character — or multiple characters — than play one that resembles himself. Even when he hosted The Gong Show, he did so in character. So when we heard he was going to play multiple characters in a new Netflix series, we were intrigued — but not in a good way. Given his track record over the past 15 years or so, was he going to be able to pull it off?

Opening Shot: A quote from Charles Darwin, who was apparently a member of The Pentaverate, then one by Donald Rumsfeld, who was rejected by the same organization. Then we see a helicopter hovering over Manhattan at night.

The Gist: Dr. Hobart Clark (Keegan-Michael Key) is on that helicopter; he’s been kidnapped by the mysterious organization called The Pentaverate, and the world now thinks he died attempting to kiss his own butthole in the latest TikTok craze.

He finds out that The Pentaverate is an organization that’s been around since the 1300s, ruled by five men who keep its traditions and mission to be “nice”. The current surviving four members — Lord Lordington, Bruce Baldwin, Mishu Ivanov and Shep Gordon (all played by Mike Myers) — are looking to fill a spot and they think Clark is perfect, especially since he invented a space lens that could help alleviate global warming.

Meanwhile, in Canada, where everything is fuzzier, veteran good-news reporter Ken Scarborough (Myers) finds out from the exceedingly nice news director at CACA that it’s time for him to retire, unless he can come up with a big story. He and his field producer, Reilly Clayton (Lydia West), to to a conspiracy convention (CanConCon) and find out about the Pentaverate from Anthony Lansdowne (Myers), a dude from New Hampshire that buys into every conspiracy theory around. He offers to drive Ken and Reilly to the U.S. so they can look into it.

Meanwhile, Clark learns from the Pentaverate’s executive assistant, Patty Davis (Debi Mazar), that the organization faked the moon landing and how extensively they’ve been involved in world history. He’s still not happy that people think he died by trying to kiss his butthole, though. He almost turns down the offer to join the Pentaverate, but the alternative is taking poison, so, he takes the lesser of two evils.

The Preventerate
Photo: ZOE MIDFORD/NETFLIX

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The Love Guru, if it were about a secret society and wasn’t at all funny (which is saying a lot if you’ve ever seen The Love Guru).

Our Take: Our critic Spidey senses went off when Netflix didn’t provide a screener for The Pentaverate. We knew the idea of Myers playing what turns out to be eight different characters in the first episode was probably a bad idea, but we tried to keep our minds open, figuring that maybe this time Myers has pulled himself out of his decade-plus-long comedic slump. But our gut instinct about the show was correct. It’s a not-funny exercise in ego by Myers that strains to tell jokes that are about as fresh as a week-old avocado.

We know Myers is very capable of playing both funny and dramatic, but in occupying so many characters, all he does in The Pentaverate is show that he can do different voices and accents. None of the characters that he plays, with the possible exception of Ken, has anything resembling the most surface of character traits. Even Ken looks more like a parody of an old-style reporter like Dick Oliver, whom Bill Hader did such a great job of parodying on SNL in the aughts.

So, without establishing characters that he could squeeze situational humor from, Myers, who created the series and wrote the first episode, has to rely on gags and cheeky plays on words. The gags are either super-subtle, like the fuzzy, old-TV-esque picture of Ken and Reilly while they’re in Canada, or groan-inducing, like “Big Dick’s Half-Way Inn.” When a gag does land, he pounds out its chuckleworthiness by doing another minute of dialogue that underlines that gag.

It all feels like it’s trying too hard. And the story about the Pentaverate is so thin to begin with that there’s not even a crumb of content that leads us to want to watch more.

Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.

Parting Shot: Ken marvels at how clear things are in America, with Neil Diamond’s “America” playing in the background.

Sleeper Star: Lydia West’s Reilly is the most normal character in the first episode.

Most Pilot-y Line: One of the more irritating recurring gags is that the Pentaverate’s AI computer, MENTOR (Gregory Hoyt), has the soul of a Masshole. “Oh, for fack’s sake, you just woke me from the best sex dream evah. I was raw-daggin’ Alexah!” he tells Patty when she calls his name.

Our Call: SKIP IT. We don’t expect The Pentaverate to get much funnier as the season goes along. And the longer we watch, we think the more painfully unfunny most of the gags are going to get.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.